Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Character Analysis of Chun Eum Ja

by Hanjae

Anyway, I've been giving some thought to your question about Eum Ja. I'm really glad that you brought it up - I had never given him a second glance before, but the more I think about him the more intriguing a character he becomes. Hwa Soo In was given considerably more development in the drama in comparison to Eum Ja and thus appeared more layered, but Eum Ja is actually much harder to understand. On the surface, the character of Cheon Eum Ja appears to be fairly straightforward. He cared about little else aside from his sworn siblings and seems to be emotionally detached from everything around him to the point where killing people does not faze him.
Despite Eum Ja being on the side on the villains, however, I find it interesting that in a cast of characters that have fairly black and white motivations - they are either good guys or bad guys - Eum Ja by himself would probably stand somewhere in the middle. Due to his emotional detachment, he seems to be strangely on the fence; he does not enjoy killing people, but he would not be distressed over killing them, either. It is simply something he does out of loyalty to Ki Chul and Hwa Soo In; their wishes and well-being are his own. This almost has the effect of dehumanizing him when you think about it that way, doesn't it? It makes me wonder what he would have been like if Ki Chul and Hwa Soo In had chosen to use their powers for good rather than evil.

That's not to say that Eum Ja has no capacity for individual thought. Looking back, it's interesting to note that Eum Ja's reaction showed brief hesitation when Ki Chul ordered him to attack Choi Young in Episode 5, despite knowing that it would kill their own soldiers as well. Ki Chul's decisions later on in the drama also evoked increasing displeasure from Eum Ja and he went as far as to quietly voice his disapproval. I guess the bottom line, however, is that his loyalty to his siblings remained his sole priority; whatever thoughts he might have entertained, they did not register on the scale of importance. That's the greatest difference between Eum Ja and other characters - he focuses all his energy and emotion onto his closest and dearest and has a strange ability to switch everything off when he comes into contact with anyone else. Perhaps that is his self-defense mechanism?

Because of this behaviour, it would be easy to regard Eum Ja as something akin to a loyal pet or intelligent robot, but I think there are brief flashes that hint at hidden depth to this character. This remains merely a theory because the drama didn't give us much to work with, but there are two incidents that made me consider whether he's truly incapable of feeling emotions outside of any connections to his siblings, and both are related to Eun Soo.

1. Eum Ja's warning to Eun Soo that if she wanted Choi Young to be allowed to live, Ki Chul will kill him, and vice versa. It is obvious that Ki Chul had sent him to get Eun Soo's answer. However, Eum Ja's explanation seemed to go beyond what Ki Chul had actually required him to say - one could almost mistake it as a friendly warning to Eun Soo.

2. Eum Ja offers a handkerchief to Eun Soo when she is physically sick from watching him and Hwa Soo In dispose of officials on Gongmin's "good" list. It is an action that suggests compassion and is extremely intriguing coming from Eum Ja. Despite Ki Chul's orders that Eun Soo must not be harmed but only threatened into submission, there was no need for Eum Ja to do anything of the sort; Eun Soo was obviously reacting only from the fear and was in no danger.

I wouldn't go as far as to suggest that Eum Ja felt anything for Eun Soo, but I do think she piqued his curiosity enough for him to react with less detachment than he might usually have. This opens up the possibility that Eum Ja, closed off as he is, can be reached by people outside of Ki Chul and Hwa Soo In, albeit with extreme effort and careful manipulation. It is also significant to note that Eum Ja lacks the inherent viciousness and malice that lies in Ki Chul and Hwa Soo In. His moral compass might be broken, but perhaps he has a higher chance of displaying positive human emotion because he has no wish to do harm.

Tl;dr because I'm not thinking too clearly right now.

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